The first full Army Women’s fixture of the season was played at Penarth RFC on Friday 24 October against the Welsh Premiership team, Llandaff North, bolstered by a few players from other Cardiff based clubs. After the success of the Army Development game against Exeter University the Army Head Coach, Capt Glyn Barraclough (RAMC), had a tough job selecting the starting team with so much choice and talent.
This is always a tough fixture for the Army and Llandaff North did not disappoint, coming out strong from the whistle and within 2 minutes of the game they were awarded a penalty in the Army’s 22. Llandaff North chose to go for a lineout, which they executed spectacularly and shipped the ball out to the backs, with quick hands from 10 to 12 who offloaded in the tackle to 13. Cpl Carrie (Caz) Roberts (REME) put in a brave tackle, but momentum carried the player over the try line to score. The conversion was kicked giving Lllandaff North an early 7-0 lead.
After receiving this early wakeup call the Army quickly fought back, with Gnr Jessica McAuley (RA) chasing back a loose ball to then step 3 defenders and secure the ball just outside the Army’s 22. With the forwards setting up a strong platform at the breakdown Capt Gemma (Smudge) Stonebridge-Smith (AGC (ETS)) was able to get a clean pass to England International Cpl Jane Leonard (RE) who drew the defenders to the left and then popped inside to Cpl Bianca (Bee) Dawson (AGC (RMP)) just outside the 22. Dawson made a break down the middle of the park stepping 6 defenders to then offload whilst mid tackle to Leonard, who then stepped on the gas to outrun her perusing defenders to place the ball under the posts. The conversion was unsuccessful. 7-5
Llandaff North responded quickly by testing the Army’s defence with strong running rugby. With a Llandaff scrum in the Army’s 22, their scrum-half provided speedy service to the backs, who executed a well drilled attacking move to release their inside centre, who went crashing through the middle of the Army’s defence to score wide of the posts. Llandaff North missed the conversion, making the score at 12-5.
More determined than ever and with the huge support from the crowd, the Army soldiered on. Strong work from the forwards in both the tight and the loose allowed the backs to test the opposition’s defence. Llandaff North’s defensive line was well structured and very quick to realign, which made it challenging for the Army’s attack. 32 minutes into the game and with persistence from the Army, they received a penalty in Llandaff North’s 22. Ever alert; Stonebridge-Smith took a quick penalty and ran at the defence to then offload the ball in the tackle to Dawson. The prop on top form stepped one opposition, handed off another before executing an incredible side step back inside leaving the opposition on the back foot and allowing her to glide straight through to score a try near the posts. Caz Roberts kicked the conversion putting the score 12-12 at half time.
With a quick regroup at half time Llandaff North came out even stronger and challenged the Army’s defence. Llandaff receiving a scrum in the Army’s 22 saw this as an opportune moment to attack the Army’s blind side. With a strong platform in the scrum Llandaff North’s No8 picked and went blind catching the Army off guard. The No8 popped the ball mid tackle to their scrum half who, although shadowed by the quick Army drift defence, managed to squeeze over in the corner. The conversion missed, Llandaff North led 17-12.
59 minutes into the game Llandaff North were given a yellow card for their continual infringements at the breakdown after a great example of forward continuity play by the Army. The Army were quick to capitalise on this advantage by upping the tempo further. With Leonard drawing in the defence to then feed the ball to 2Lt Jade Binskin-Barnes (RLC) who ghosted through the gaps in the defence’s line. With the quick pace of the game and the pressure from Lllandaff North the Army unfortunately knocked the ball on in the opposition’s 22 squandering an obvious scoring opportunity. At the ensuing Llandaff scrum, the Army forwards showed huge determination and aggression, putting in a colossal drive to turn the ball over. With speed of thought and decisive reaction Leonard collected the ball and headed for the try line. Llandaff North covered back quickly to stop her short of the line, however Jade Binskin-Barnes was there in support, ripping the ball free to dive over the line for the try. Once again the score even. 17-17.
Both teams gave their all in the last 10 minutes to try and secure the win. The dominant forward play from the Army and the speed of Llandaff North’s backs kept the supporters on the edge of their seats. A close call for Llandaff North as they attacked in the Army’s half; but with a strong drift defence and excellent communication the Army were able to stem the tide and turn the ball over. The Army’s forwards continued unrelentingly crashing into the opposition’s defence to make space for the backs, who continuously sent the ball wide in an attempt to a break through or out flank the Llandaff defence. Despite the onslaught the Llandaff North defence halted them in their tracks.
79 minutes into the game and the score still even, the Army won a scrum close to the Llandaff line. It was obvious that this was the last opportunity to win the game. Once again the impressive Army pack drove back Llandaff North in the scrum, giving Pte Kayleigh Clemes (RLC) the space to go down the blind side with Capt Verity Skinner (RLC) following in support. As Clemes was tackled Skinner was able to rip the ball free and drive over the try line to score the winning try. 17-22.
This was a spectacular game of rugby played by both sides. The deserved player of the match voted for by the opposition was Cpl Bee Dawson, who had an outstanding game, making yardage that most props could only dream of. The Army selected player of the match was 2Lt Jade Binskin-Barnes who had controlled the Army scrum from No8, been immense in the loose and had ran her heart out for 80 minutes.